Penn State DuBois, High School Students Collect Items for Injured Veterans
This month, Occupational Therapy (OT) students at Penn State DuBois doubled down on service projects while also gaining some valuable experience in their field. The students collected comfort items to donate to injured veterans at the Veteran's Administration Hospital in Erie. Then, to assemble care packages with the items, the Penn State students enlisted the help of Life Skills students from DuBois Area High School. The Life Skills program is made up of young people with developmental challenges, ages 14 through 21. Overall, the project benefits the veterans who will receive the packages, the Life Skills students who had the experience of helping with the project, and the Penn State students who had the opportunity use their education to guide the high schoolers through preparing the care packages.
Beginning in early February, OT students placed donation boxes around campus to collect items for injured veterans who are currently hospitalized, who don’t have the resources to obtain the items themselves. They asked for things like shaving cream, tooth paste, tooth brushes, combs, hand sanitizer, and other comfort or personal hygiene items.
"We did this to give back to people who have served our country," said OT instructor LuAnn Demi. "It's important for students to see that there's a lot to do beyond doing your job; that you should reach out and help others in the community."
The OT students said they did learn that lesson, through working with the Life Skill students, and by knowing they will provide comfort to veterans. Student Chelsea Rearick of Byrnedale said, "It makes us realize why we're here, and that we can really help people."
Rearick also said the experience provided valuable insight for the careers that lie ahead of the students. She said, "I think that everything we do like this helps prepare us. In the medical field, you never know what you'll encounter from day to day."
Classmate Stacy Otto of Curwensville agreed, saying, "This has given me a lot of help preparing for what I'll see when I graduate. I'm dealing with people and really loosening up around them. It's good practice."
According to Gretchen Clark, a Life Skills teacher at the high school, arrangements like this are working for everybody.
"Some of the Life Skills students do receive occupational or physical therapy, so these Penn State students get the opportunity to work with people who have the kind of disabilities that they might work with in the future. Our students also have a great time coming to the campus, working on project like this, and having this interaction. It's great for our kids in and the Penn State students."